OPS Funds Emergency

May 15, 2010

What will it take to restore all transit service hours that were cut over the past two years and prevent additional service hour reductions? I haven't found a number but I guesstimate that 10% of the total cost of providing transit service nationally would be a decent number. I suggest that $9 billion in a separate emergency operations fund (in addition to the $8.2 billion for capital in the House Bill) that can only be used to add service hours or prevent service hour reductions be appropriated over a 2 year period. – $1.7 b for the balance of FY 2010; $3.6 b in FY 2011 and $3.7 b in FY 2012. Money would be distributed by 5307 and 5311 formula. In order to receive funds transit systems would have to operate within 120 days of signing into law no less than the number of service hours (annualized) that they did on the first weekday, Saturday and Sunday of 2010 plus a number of service hours equal to the annual allocation under this program divided by the incremental cost of an hour of service. (Transit agencies with multiple modes operating at different costs per hour may allocate hours among the different services as they see fit.) If a transit agency's policy board approved service hour reductions prior to January 1 that were to be implemented after the first week of January or if the agency proposed specific services to be cut or specified a number of service hours that will need to be cut in 2010 or 2011 prior to January 1, 2010; then these hours may be counted in lieu of additional hours. Transit agencies that have not cut service or proposed to cut service could increase service hours.

From a jobs perspective a compelling case can be made for this proposal.

A recent TCRP report indicated that each billion invested in transit operations yield almost twice as many jobs as a similar investment in capital (41K compared to 23K) A PIRG analysis of ARRA funds showed that investments in transit capital generated more jobs than similar investments in highway capital

The jobs created/preserved by this proposal will be immediate and in place months before the elections

From a jobs perspective an even larger impact will be on the number of jobs that will gain transit access. Unlike other job stimulus investments more transit service hours will provide more opportunities for individuals to access employment and training. (I don't know how to quantify the number of jobs that will gain transit access or the number of individuals who will gain access to more jobs. - but I suspect the number is quite large however you do it.)

Fuel prices are increasing again. If this continues until another tipping point is reached as in 2008, transit agencies that struggled to meet demand then will be even less able to meet demand in 2010.

I think this proposal addresses concerns that funds will not be spent wisely or have a direct impact on jobs. Another concern will be what happens after 2012 - will there be pressure to add more federal operation funding. This is where the incentives and conditions that should be included in the authorization bill are important. By then hopefully states and local government will be in better position to increase support for transit and these provisions will provide powerful carrots and sticks to see that it happens. (I will describe what should be contained in the next authorization bill in a later post.)

So in closing contact your senators and ask for $9 Billion for emergency operations support and urge others to do so also. Please feel free to post this message anywhere there may be a receptive audience.